GEAR is a film noir crime drama set in Toronto and Montreal about a drug runner who loses a major shipment of heroin and must convince his superiors that there was no foul play.
The feature film marks the second collaboration between writer/director Ant Horasanli and actor /producer Reza Sholeh. Their first film ‘Lost Journey’ in which starred Reza Sholeh in the leading role was picked up by distributor Mongrel Media who released the film theatrically. ‘Lost Journey’ also secured PAY TV and Netflix deals as well.
The success of that film and exposure was a bit of a surprise for director Ant Horasanli and its star Reza Sholeh as this was their first feature, and at times very much felt like three people making a movie. When it came to making their second feature GEAR, they wanted to take countless lessons they learned on ‘Lost Journey’ and apply them to their next film.
That meant first and foremost, that there had to be a fully committed crew, and that everyone would be getting paid. No deferrals, no favors, everyone was going to be paid, and therefore accountable. It’s hard to hold an actor responsible for being 3 hours late to a shoot when they are essentially volunteering a month of their time or more to your project.
The next thing was the importance of casting. On ‘Lost Journey’ the casting was actually one of the stronger points and director Ant Horasanli wanted to ensure that the performances in GEAR would be even better, and that the cast would have more experience.
The lead Tyler Blake Smith was already an actor both Ant and Reza had already worked with. Their action/thriller web series PETROL about 5 getaway drivers featured Tyler as one of the leads. His talent, background, and on screen persona made him an obvious choice to play Nate, a British expat running drugs for a Russian cartel in Toronto.
Casting for the role of Zoe proved to be much more difficult. Finding Nate’s co-star who could match his authentic London accent, and also deliver, the chemistry, and subtly sly femme fatale nature that the role demanded meant seeing over 160 actresses in Toronto. In the end the producers were able to find the perfect fit with actress Nicola Posener who hailed from London proper.
Along with Nicola, Mr. Gregory Hlady who plays ROMAN was another actor that the producers would have to fly in and provide lodging. Essentially GEAR became a much bigger and complex production than anticipated.
The film was self-financed on a very modest budget and through the strength of the rough cut was awarded post-production funds from Telefilm Canada. This allowed the producers to put the final polish on the film, including ADR and undertaking professional color grading and sound mix.
The film has recently been completed and is now entering the festival circuit. The producers will be shopping the film at TIFF 2016 and AFM. The trailer was released on YouTube recently and has already garnered over 100,000 views.
CHALLENGES OF MAKING THIS FILM:
To point out some of the challenges we faced in production, let’s start with the number of locations we have in the film. Characters Travel from London to Toronto to Montreal, Quebec city and then back to Toronto. That on its own required having to secure multiple locations which proved to be more challenging than anticipated.
We had locations booked for filming weeks in advanced, however sometimes on the 11th hour for one reason or another the location would become unavailable, and we had to come up with a solution or else the production would of suffered immensely. As mentioned before the film was mostly self-financed and done on a very modest budget so any complications like that would have made the entire process just much harder.
To give you an example of one of the location issues we faced and overcame; in one of the earlier scenes Nate (Played by Tyler Blake Smith) goes to a sex shop to purchase a handcuff. The owner of the store had signed the location contract and given consent for us to use his shop, however the day before the shoot his father had a heart attack and had to go to the hospital, so he simply didn’t open the store and refused to answer our phone calls. At the end he cooperated and honored his contract, but suffice it to say, that particular location cost us three times as much simply because we couldn’t afford to post pone filming on that day. Having actors flown from the U.K. and Montreal, they were booked for certain days and times and any extension would have caused complications with their schedule, budget and the remaining schedule of the production.
Another challenge we faced making GEAR which was again location related, was sound. The location used in the last scene of the film (wheat field in Caledon) was scouted months before the shoot on a weekend. However the day we arrived on set to begin filming which was a Thursday we realized there is an aviation school about 10 kilometers away from the field and airplanes fly over our head every half an hour. This was something that we would have noticed had we scouted the location on a Thursday and not a weekend as that airport is only open during the week. Long story short that entire scene had to be ADRed.
But at the end both Ant and Reza are very satisfied with the level of quality control they were able to maintain during the making of the film. As the director notes, the challenges on set and unpredictable nature of shooting a film with this many locations always poses a threat to what you originally envisioned. It is very easy to let your guard down and accept things as they are. What both Reza and I always strived for, was to reach a certain standard, and to always push for the very best we could do with what we had. In other words we never wanted to compromise. We believe that audiences who enjoy crime dramas particularly those that are of a darker nature with a layered story and complex characters will enjoy a film like GEAR.
This was Reza and Ants second collaboration with Tyler Blake Smith who plays Nate in GEAR. Tyler originally auditioned when the team was casting for PETROL the series, during that time Reza and Ant were also in development of GEAR, so when they saw Tyler (a British ex-pat who lives in Toronto) they knew he would be the right choice to play Nate.
For some of the readers who may have not heard about this show; Petrol is a new Canadian web-series funded in part by Independent Production Fund. The show is geared towards car enthusiasts and fans of crime fiction.
This story driven narrative is about five daring drivers from all walks of life who work for a mysterious employer named Manny. Manny does the dirty work for a psychopathic and ruthless Russian gangster by assigning each driver various tasks that require them to use their unique driving skills.
Each character has her/his own motivation for taking on these jobs, but the one thing they all have in common is the valor to drive with reckless abandon.
The series unfolds episodically, revealing the true nature of Manny (AKA the Employer) one episode at a time until the audience is finally let in on the big reveal.
Petrol has an ensemble cast and each character appears in 1 or 2 episodes, Matt’s episode (played by Tyler Blake Smith) is to be released as petrol’s season1 finale.
The creative team (Ant Horasanli & Reza Sholeh) are most collaborative with actors when it comes to getting the right performance.
Despite the ferocious pace of production and the time required for complex action scenes, the producers and director of the show put a great emphasis on character development ensuring that each cast member fully understands their character and how they all form a piece of the bigger puzzle.
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